EIB provides EUR 50 million to Gorenje to develop a new generation of domestic appliances

MIL OSI – Source: European Investment Bank –

Headline: EIB provides EUR 50 million to Gorenje to develop a new generation of domestic appliances

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is lending EUR 50 million to Gorenje Gospodinjski aparati d.d., one of the leading European traditional manufacturer of household electrical appliances. The EIB loan will have a maturity of up to 7 years and will finance the company’s 4-year research, development and innovation expenditure programme aimed at strengthening its innovative capacity by developing new domestic appliances and upgrading its existing product range.

This is the first transaction in Slovenia supported by “InnovFin – EU Finance for Innovators’ InnovFin Large Projects”, with the financial backing of the European Union under Horizon 2020 Financial Instruments.

EIB Vice-President László Baranyay, responsible for the Bank’s operations in Central European countries, commented: “The EIB loan will contribute to the much-needed strengthening of the competitiveness of the European economy by supporting Gorenje’s RDI activities and manufacturing of innovative and environmentally friendly electrical appliances in various EU Member States”. 

Franjo Bobinac, President and CEO of the Gorenje Group, stated: “Our Strategic Plan 2016-2020 is summed up by the slogan G4: Gorenje Group Grows Global. Its driving force is the development of premium and innovative products and premium brands as these are expected to double and increase to 30 percent of the Group’s sales by 2020. We see the EIB loan as an expression of confidence and support for achieving our ambitious strategic goals and further developing the Gorenje Group”.

Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said: “This InnovFin loan will help Gorenje develop its products produced from fewer resources, which consume less electricity and water, and can be better recycled at the end of their use. It is a great example of how Horizon 2020 stimulates European competitiveness and growth by supporting traditional industries and investing in research.”

The EIB funds will support the development of new and better performing white goods that consume less electrical energy, use a greater share of recycled materials, have improved end-of-life recyclability, need fewer resources for their production and use less water during their operation. This will result in positive environmental impacts in line with EIB policy in the area of climate action. The RDI activities will be carried out mainly at the Research and Development Centre in Gorenje’s headquarters in Velenje, Slovenia and also in other R&D locations of the company in the Netherlands, Sweden and the Czech Republic.

Background information

Gorenje Group is one of the leading European home appliance manufacturers with a history spanning more than 65 years. Having our own production facilities in Slovenia, Serbia and the Czech Republic our focus lies on the core activity products and services for home: major and small domestic appliances, products for heating, ventilation and air-conditioning and kitchen furniture. Our portfolio investments include ecology-related services, toolmaking, engineering, catering and trade. Gorenje Group has over 10 600 employees worldwide. We have been expanding our international sales network for half a century and generate 95 percent of revenue from the core activity outside Slovenia. In 2015 our revenue amounted to EUR 1.225bn, the majority being generated in Germany, Russia, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Central and Southeast Europe, the USA and Australia. Technologically perfected, superiorly designed and energy-efficient home appliances under global brands Gorenje and Asko and six additional regional brands elevate the quality of life of users in 90 countries worldwide. We aim to become the most design-driven innovator of home appliances in the world.

InnovFin financial products

Under Horizon 2020, the new EU research programme for 2014-20, the European Commission and the European Investment Bank Group (EIB and EIF) have launched a new generation of financial instruments and advisory services to help innovative firms access finance more easily. Over the next seven years, “InnovFin – EU Finance for Innovators” will offer a range of tailored products which will make available more than EUR 24bn of financing support for research and innovation (R&I) by small, medium-sized and large companies and the promoters of research infrastructures. This finance is expected to support up to EUR 48bn of final R&I investments.

Backed by funds set aside under Horizon 2020 and by the EIB Group, InnovFin financial products support R&I activities, which by their nature are riskier and harder to assess than traditional investments, and therefore often face difficulties in accessing finance. All are demand-driven instruments, with no prior allocations between sectors, countries or regions. Firms and other entities located in EU Member States and Horizon 2020 Associated Countries are eligible final beneficiaries. These debt instruments will be complemented in the near future by a suite of equity instruments managed by the EIF.

InnovFin Large Projects aims to improve access to risk finance with loans and guarantees from EUR 25m to EUR 300m delivered by the EIB for R&I projects promoted by larger companies (over 3 000 employees), universities and public research organizations, R&I infrastructures, public-private partnerships and special purpose vehicles or projects 

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Statement by President Hoyer UN World Humanitarian Summit, Roundtable "Financing: Investing in Humanity"

MIL OSI – Source: European Investment Bank –

Headline: Statement by President Hoyer UN World Humanitarian Summit, Roundtable “Financing: Investing in Humanity”

Istanbul, 23 May 2016


We at the EIB, the EU Bank, as one of the leading Multilateral Development Banks warmly welcome the commitments of the Group of 7 MDBs announced today to working together with national and international partners to respond to the global forced displacement crisis.

Our response focuses on economic resilience within the context of the “One Humanity” agenda issued by the United Nations. We can contribute substantially and build on our comparative advantages complementing much needed humanitarian aid, such as: 

  • our ability to deploy an extensive range of financing, knowledge and advisory services;
  • our capacity to mobilise and leverage public and private financing;
  • our convening power to create synergies between national and international stakeholders through deeper and wider cooperation. 

To achieve these objectives, we are committed to expand lending, blending and advising so as to promote economic resilience by financing increased infrastructure needs and related services, stimulating entrepreneurship and strengthening education and health systems. 

We are committed to lead where EIB has the expertise and resources to do so and to support other MDBs where they are well placed to do so. It is clear that these tasks are beyond the capacity of any single institution. 

We have great challenges in front of us, today, tackling the consequences, but in particular, the roots of migration. We have set up the Sustainable Development Goals. Last December in Paris we agreed on COP 21. 

We all know that we will not meet the huge needs for finance in order to support the people and providing them with the right infrastructure, with good education, with decent health care, with the prospect of living a better life, we will not meet these needs with our traditional instruments. There is simply not sufficient public money to do so. 

Meeting these challenges will only be possible by maximizing the impact of the scarce resources available and blend these with the abundant private capital. For mobilizing these funds you need institutions like ours whose mandate it is to crowd-in private capital. 

And we need to use modern, intelligent and responsible financial instruments to do this. The EU Bank is already taking concrete steps. Our exposure in the region has surmounted the 40 billion dollar threshold. 

Several financial initiatives are already in place:

  1. The MENA Facility launched by the World Bank Group, the Islamic Development Bank and the UN for which EIB and the other MDBs are reliable implementation partners;
  2. The Crisis Response and Economic Development initiative which the European Investment Bank will present in June in response to the European Council’s invitation to advance a specific initiative aimed at rapidly mobilising additional financing in support of sustainable growth, vital infrastructure and social cohesion in the region.
  3. Support to Turkey in the context of the refugee crisis, in close cooperation with the European Union and other European Financing Institutions. 

We plan to expand the range of products that the EIB can currently offer to respond to urgent needs with three building blocks: 

1)  stepping up further existing activities;

2)  enhance our support to the public sector through concessional and grant financing; and

3)  strengthen support to the private sector through risk and impact finance.

The EIB proposal is an integral part of our global strategy, also covering other regions and addressing root causes for migration as well as other global challenges that are important for the EU such as climate change and Sustainable Development Goals.

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Joint Statement by the Multilateral Development Banks at the World Humanitarian Summit, May 23, 2016 Responding to the Forced Displacement Crisis

MIL OSI – Source: European Investment Bank –

Headline: Joint Statement by the Multilateral Development Banks at the World Humanitarian Summit, May 23, 2016 Responding to the Forced Displacement Crisis

We, the undersigned Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs), are committed to working together, and within our respective institutional mandates, to respond to the global forced displacement crisis and further strengthen our contributions to the development agenda, complementing ongoing humanitarian, diplomatic, security and peacekeeping efforts required to meet the needs of refugees, Internally Displaced People (IDPs), as well as their countries of origin and host countries. Recognizing the critical role played by humanitarian actors in this area over the years, our commitment is to work more closely together building on our development experience.

We do this within the context of the “One Humanity” agenda issued by the United Nations Secretary General (UNSG) on February 9, 2016, the ongoing dialogue taking place between MDBs, the UNSG and Heads of UN agencies and the Agenda 2030. The forced displacement crisis poses a substantial threat to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) especially for countries of origin and host countries of refugees and IDPs. Our commitment also supports the forced displacement agenda outlined by the G7, G20, and G-77.

We have articulated our response to forced displacement in a joint paper which outlines the specific contribution MDBs can make to address the specific vulnerabilities of people forcibly displaced as well as host communities which have to absorb the shock created by a sudden influx of forcibly displaced people. Our response focuses on socioeconomic opportunities, acceptance and inclusion, as well as economic resilience and/or poverty reduction efforts.

Our mutual commitment to achieve results on the ground is rooted in our mandates and builds on our comparative advantages, namely: our ability to deploy an extensive range of financing, knowledge and advisory services; our capacity to mobilize and leverage public and private financing and foster private sector engagement in response to the crisis; and, our convening power, to enable stronger synergies between national and international stakeholders – including the civil society, while promoting regional cooperation.

To achieve these objectives, we resolve the following:

To focus on prevention and preparedness measures through increased resilience to shocks for countries and regions which are most exposed to fragility, MDBs are committed to provide continued and strengthened support in fragile countries and regions where there is a recognized risk of escalation into a crisis situation and to help strengthen resilience of home countries. In particular this can be achieved by stepping up technical assistance including for early warning systems, joint financing of private and public investments in an effective and innovative way, enhancing conflict and crises management skills capacities of national and sub-national institutions and supporting policy and governance reforms to strengthen economic resilience.

Specific areas for MDBs intervention include financing education systems or enhancing the quality of local education provision, improving access to finance, fostering entrepreneurship as well as increasing availability of training programs. We also commit to promote gender equality, diversity and inclusion across all sectors.

To support host communities, we commit to facilitate economic activity for host populations by fostering a more enabling business environment, while also developing support programs for infrastructure and services, job creation, service delivery and social protection. As a key complement to these activities, we will also focus on the economic resilience of the forcibly displaced and to facilitate their social cohesion and inclusion. Using innovative financing mechanisms, we commit to support infrastructure projects to improve efficiency and sustainability, as well as to establish, where feasible, public-private partnerships in health, education, water and sanitation/waste management sectors.

To move this broad agenda forward, and in accordance with our mandates and resources, we commit to focus on three specific areas where joint action is a priority: (i) joint country-level engagements: while recognizing the diversity of mandates of the MDBs, we commit to jointly engage at country-level in both crises prevention and response, in countries facing acute displacement crisis as well as countries of origin and in consultation with national stakeholders; (ii) innovative financing mechanisms to strengthen MDBs collective engagement, in line with the recommendations of the report to the Secretary-General from the High-Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing “Too important to fail—addressing the humanitarian financing gap”; and (iii) data and evidence: MDBs and development partners will endeavor to help client countries strengthen the basis on which policies and programs are designed and help inform public debates and policy formulation.

Concerned by the urgency of the global forced displacement crisis, we are already taking concrete steps to translate our commitment into effective action on the ground to support client countries’ efforts in this area both individually and collectively. Several financial initiatives are already in place which represent the first steps in a broader effort to respond to the crisis:

  1. The MENA Facility launched by the World Bank Group, the Islamic Development Bank and the UN with other MDBs participating as implementing partners;
  2. The Resilience Programme that the European Investment Bank will present in June in response to the refugee crisis in Southern Mediterranean and Balkan countries as requested by the European Union Heads of State and Governments;
  3. The EBRD, EIB, IsDB and World Bank Group commitments in support of Syria at February 2016 London Conference;
  4. The Jobs for Youth in Africa will provide economic and social opportunities to all youth, men and women, and will incentivize political and social stability both in host and country of origin;
  5. The Plan of the Alliance for the Prosperity of the Northern Triangle supported by the Inter- American Development Bank to tackle the protracted crisis of undocumented migrant children from Central America.
  6. The EBRD’s community resilience program provides access to vital municipal services to the most affected regions in Jordan and Turkey (and in due course Lebanon), and strengthens the private sector response by supporting entrepreneurship and SME development, as well as high quality training and jobs for young women and men from host and refugee communities.

Finally, we recognize that our collective effectiveness is directly linked to our ability to develop synergies amongst ourselves, enhance knowledge sharing, foster stronger institutional and operational collaboration and ensure adequate follow-up.

As such, we will structure our conversation at a working level, through the establishment of a Joint MDB Coordination Group, composed of representatives of each of our seven institutions. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has accepted to join as Observer. One of the first tasks of the Joint MDBs Coordination Group will be to identify countries for joint engagement opportunities.

Joint Statement by the Multilateral Development Banks at the World Humanitarian Summit, May 23, 2016: Responding to the Forced Displacement Crisis

The forced displacement crisis – a joint paper by multilateral development Banks

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EU Commission and EIB team up to promote InvestEU in Bulgaria

MIL OSI – Source: European Investment Bank –

Headline: EU Commission and EIB team up to promote InvestEU in Bulgaria

As part of a campaign to promote the Investment Plan for Europe, the Bulgarian leg of the #InvestEU tour took place from 10-13 May 2016. The tour is the second in a series of events in Bulgaria, further to the organisation of a major information event in Sofia on 19 February 2016. 

The tour was organised by the Representation of the European Commission in Sofia, together with the European Investment Bank (EIB) and commercial banks working with the European Investment Fund (EIF). It presented the Investment Plan for Europe to a specialised audience of stakeholders, business communities, regional authorities and specialised media in four major cities of Bulgaria – Ruse, Varna, Burgas and Plovdiv. 

The aim of the tour was to inform participants about the details and opportunities of the Investment Plan, as well as the important role it plays for the Bulgarian and the European economy. The EIB was represented during the tour by Dietmar Dumlich and Atanas Ivanov who presented the EIB-managed European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) which aims to mobilise EUR 315 billion of investment for strategic projects in Europe. The Plovdiv event included the participation of European Commission Vice President Kristalina Georgieva, Members of the European Parliament, additional EIB speakers and a project promoter from another EU member state that successfully secured EFSI funding for an innovative project.

 Short Link

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Petr Pavelek, full member of the Board of Directors

MIL OSI – Source: European Investment Bank –

Headline: Petr Pavelek, full member of the Board of Directors

By letter dated 25 April 2016, the Czech Republic nominated, Mr Petr PAVELEK (Director of the Debt and Financial Assets Management Department, Ministry of Finance) for appointment as a Full Member of the Board of Directors of the EIB to succeed Mr  Jan GREGOR, who had tendered his resignation with effect on 6 May 2016. 

By letter dated 27 April 2016, the Board of Governors was invited to vote on the proposed appointment. 

The decision to appoint Mr Petr PAVELEK was taken on 12 May 2016, the date on which the requisite majority of Governors’ votes was reached. 

The term of office of Mr Petr PAVELEK will expire in 2018 at the end of the day either of the Annual Meeting or of the approval of the financial statements for the previous financial year, whichever is the later. 

The minutes of this decision are being drawn up and will be submitted for signature to the Chairman of the Board of Governors.

 Short Link

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President Ilves met with digital entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley

MIL OSI – Source: President of Estonia – Press Release/Statement

Headline: President Ilves met with digital entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley



Many leading entrepreneurs of the digital economy attended a dinner organised by Sylvia Thompson, daughter of Olga Kistler Ritso, the founder of the Museum of Occupations, and her husband, on the occasion of President Toomas Hendrik Ilves’s visit to Silicon Valley.

George Schultz, a long-serving U.S. Secretary of State in the Ronald Reagan administration, greeted the Estonian head of state and expressed his admiration for how many initiators and innovators of the digital economy come from tiny Estonia: “Estonia has carved out a significant place in this field, which is proven by the Estonians that are here today.”

President Ilves focused on the role of the state in supporting technological development, saying that the state has many important tasks. On the one hand, the rapid development of technology is accompanied by pressure to arrange and update the existing legislation. The impediment of innovation by unwieldy rules can be a significant obstacle to development. However, a precondition for sensible regulation is legislators and interpreters who themselves understand the principles of how technology operates. This means that our educational system must be updated.

A significant role that the state can play is to ensure that people have a secure e-identity, that is, to help make sure that they can safely “circulate” in cyberspace, said the Estonian head of state. “One password has not been sufficient to protect our e-mailboxes for a long time; we need a two-step personal identification system,” the President said.

Among others, many entrepreneurs, leaders and investors of Estonian heritage attended the dinner, such as Sten Tamkivi, Steve Jürvetson, Hardy Meybaum, Kristel Viidik (Testlio), Ott Kaukver (Twilio), Jevgeni Kabanov (ZeroTurnaround) and Rainer Sternfeld (Planet OS).

Office of the President
Public Relations Department

Chairperson of Verkhovna Rada Committee on Human Rights, National Minorities and Interethnic Relations Hryhorii Nemyria meets with Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks in Strasbourg

MIL OSI – Source: Parliament of Ukraine –

Headline: Chairperson of Verkhovna Rada Committee on Human Rights, National Minorities and Interethnic Relations Hryhorii Nemyria meets with Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks in Strasbourg

The Parties discussed the project of the
Council of Europe on protection of rights and freedoms of internally displaced
persons in our state and cooperation in its implementation: in particular, in
the field of legislation, coordination, exchange of information and issues
related to integration of internally displaced persons.

“We must protect rights and freedoms
of internally displaced persons. These are our citizens, citizens of
Ukraine,” Hryhorii Nemyria said.

He noted the importance of elimination of
any discrepancies in the legislation on internally displaced persons, the
importance of allowing these citizens to take part in elections and the
importance of proper coverage of problems in this field and solutions.

Besides, Hryhorii Nemyria and Nils
Muiznieks took part in a discussion within the framework of the Council of
Europe’s project entitled “Strengthening the Human Rights Protection of
Internally Displaced Persons in Ukraine.”

earlier reported, on May 24-25, Chairperson of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on
Human Rights, National Minorities and Interethnic Relations Hryhorii Nemyria is
taking part in the high-level meeting entitled “Internal displacement in
Ukraine: further steps” organized by the Council of Europe.

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Briefing of Deputy Chairperson of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine Oksana Syroyid entitled "Reformation of security and intelligence services"

MIL OSI – Source: Parliament of Ukraine –

Headline: Briefing of Deputy Chairperson of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine Oksana Syroyid entitled “Reformation of security and intelligence services”

24 May 2016
Chairperson of Verkhovna Rada Committee on Human Rights, National Minorities and Interethnic Relations Hryhorii Nemyria meets with Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks in Strasbourg

24 May 2016
Briefing of Deputy Chairperson of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine Oksana Syroyid entitled “Reformation of security and intelligence services”

24 May 2016
Verkhovna Rada Committee on Agrarian Policy and Land Relations recommends Ukrainian Parliament adopt draft law “On amendments to Law of Ukraine “On peculiarities of insurance of farm produce with assistance of state” (as to specification of some terms and notions) as a basis

23 May 2016
Verkhovna Rada Committee on Financial Policy and Banking recommends Ukrainian Parliament, Cabinet of Ministers, National Bank of Ukraine use draft strategy on development of banking system of Ukraine for 2016-2020 in their work

23 May 2016
Verkhovna Rada Committee on Agrarian Policy and Land Relations recommends Ukrainian Parliament adopt draft law “On amendments to some legislative acts of Ukraine” (as to ownership right of foreign investors to land) as a basis

21 May 2016
Verkhovna Rada Chairperson Andrii Parubii congratulates Ukrainians on Europe Day

21 May 2016
Verkhovna Rada Chairperson Andrii Parubii congratulates scientists on Day of Science

20 May 2016
Last week people’s deputies worked at plenary meetings, parliamentary hearings, Committee meetings and took part in other events

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MIL OSI – Source: DOSB –

Headline: Medaillenspiegel

Mit den Olympischen Spielen taucht auch immer wieder der Mediallenspiegel auf. Aber ist er gerecht, fragt Autor Prof. Detlef Kuhlmann.

Die Medaillen der letzten Olympischen Winterspiele in Sotschi. Foto: picture-alliance

Alle Jahre wieder, genauer alle zwei Jahre im Wechsel gibt es Olympische Sommer- bzw. Winterspiele. In den Tagen der Spiele begleitet uns täglich ein aktueller Medaillenspiegel in den Medien: Alle Medaillen, die die Sportlerinnen und Sportler allein, zu zweit bzw. mit ihren Teams vor Ort gewinnen, werden in eine Nationenwertung eingepflegt und nach Wertigkeit fein sortiert: Gold, Silber, Bronze sprechen eine einfache Zahlensprache.
Der Medaillenspiegel ist umstritten. Gehört er abgeschafft? Der Medaillenspiegel passt nicht in die olympische Landschaft, so hat sich einst in einem Interview mit der Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung während der Spiele in Sotschi 2014 Prof. Eike Emrich, Sportwissenschaftler an der Universität des Saarlandes in Saarbücken, positioniert. Der Spiegel sei „Symbol eines sekundären Wettbewerbs von denen, die Sport auf nationaler Ebene organisieren“. In der Tat: Der Medaillenspiegel ist keine Erfindung des IOC und gehört insofern auch nicht in die olympische Landschaft. Trotzdem ist er dessen Bestandteil. 
Der Medaillenspiegel addiert hervorragende Leistungen. Nichts anderes macht die Tabelle der Fußball-Bundesliga. Sie vergibt zwar keine Goldmedaillen an die Siegermannschaft eines Spiels und speist Verliererteams nicht mit Blech oder Bronze ab, sondern transformiert stattdessen Tore in Punkte mit serieller Aufrechung über die Saison. Umstritten sind solche Tabellen derzeit nicht. Sie sind konstitutives Moment eines weltweiten Spielbetriebs, ohne den dieser so nicht existieren könnte. Bei Olympischen Spielen ist das anders. Die Frage nach der Existenzberechtigung des Medaillenspiegels hat so gesehen ihre Berechtigung.
Aber es kommt noch eine andere Frage hinzu: Solange der Medaillenspiegel nicht abgeschafft ist, darf und muss nämlich gefragt werden, ob er in der vorliegenden Form gerecht ist. Ist das mal hinterfragt worden? Warum dominieren eigentlich die Goldmedaillen die Rangfolge? Die Bundesligatabelle ist da schon weiter: Sie schenkt dem Sieger drei Punkte, vergibt aber bei Unentschieden jeweils einen pro Team. An der Spitze steht die Mannschaft mit den meisten Punkten, nicht zwangsläufig die mit den meisten gewonnenen Spielen.
Dieses Vergabesystem ließe sich ganz leicht auf den Medaillenspiegel übertragen: drei Punkte für Gold, zwei für Silber und einen für Bronze. Ist das gerechter und im Sinne der Athletinnen und Athleten, die diese Medaillen erringen (sollen)? Man könnte sie ja mal fragen.
(Autor: Prof. Detlef Kuhlmann/* Der Kommentar ist dem Buch des Autors mit dem Titel „Querpässe zwischen Sport und Sportwissenschaft“ (Arete, Hildesheim 2014) entnommen. Das Buch enthält insgesamt 82 Kommentare aus der DOSB-PRESSE und diesen bisher noch nicht veröffentlichten.)In jeder Ausgabe der DOSB-Presse, die wöchentlich erscheint, gibt es einen Kommentar zu aktuellen Themen des Sports, den wir hier als DOSB-Blog veröffentlichen. Diese mit Namen gezeichneten Beiträge geben nicht unbedingt die offizielle DOSB-Meinung wieder.

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Astraviec nuclear plant: a poison for Belarus-Lithuania relations?

MIL OSI – Source: Belarus Digest –

Headline: Astraviec nuclear plant: a poison for Belarus-Lithuania relations?

The Astravic NPP under construction – Photo Reuters

In the recent months, the issue of the nuclear power plant (NPP) that Belarus is building near its border with Lithuania has been dominating bilateral relations. Lithuanian politicians are seeking to block potential exports of electric energy from Belarus.

Vilnius is worried about environmental and safety concerns. Minsk sees economic and political motives behind Lithuania’s claims. Domestic policy considerations in Lithuania also play a role.

Can Lithuania’s rhetoric and actions seriously harm the two country’s economic and political ties?

On 12 May, the Lithuanian parliament adopted a resolution calling the government to take all necessary diplomatic, legal and technical measures to halt the construction of the NPP in Astraviec. MPs want the government to prohibit Belarus from selling electric energy produced at the NPP to Lithuania as well as from using the country’s energy system and its spare capacity.

The Lithuanian legislator can hardly complain about the lack of interest to this issue in the executive branch. On 26 April, Lithuania’s Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius used the anniversary of Chernobyl to demand Belarus “to ensure that safety of the NPP, being built just 50 kilometres from Vilnius, be provided in strict compliance with all international requirements and recommendations”.

Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaitė claimed on 22 February that safety of the Astraviec NPP should be of concern to the entire European Union.

Indeed, Lithuania launched a pan-European campaign against the Belarusian NPP. In December 2015, Rokas Masiulis, the country’s energy minister, wrote to his colleagues in neighbouring countries urging them not to buy electric energy, which will be produced by the NPPs now under construction in Belarus and Russia’s Kaliningrad region.

Estonia and Latvia halfheartedly supported Lithuania’s initiative. However, Finland refused to join in the boycott. Poland hid behind a soft diplomatic formula affirming that “energy from unsafe NPPs should not get on the market”.

Lithuanian leaders have been seeking support well beyond the immediate neighbourhood. On 20 April, President Dalia Grybauskaitė discussed safety of the future Belarusian NPP with German chancellor Angela Merkel.

On 11 May, Algirdas Butkevičius announced his intention to discuss the Astraviec NPP with Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission. Earlier, he claimed to have the full support of Norway in this issue.

Lithuania claims that Belarus has violated its obligations under the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (the Espoo Convention). Indeed, in March 2014, the Implementation Committee found Belarus to be in non-compliance with its obligations under four articles of the Convention.

The Belarusian government maintains that it has since remedied the situation. In June 2013, Belarus submitted the final environmental impact assessment (EIA) report to Lithuania. (The Lithuanian side claims that the report was Google-translated into Lithuanian).

According to the Belarusian authorities, Lithuania failed to respond to their numerous offers to organise consultations with the public on the EIA report. Belarus then organised such public hearings in Astraviec, provided free visas and translation into Lithuanian, and invited Lithuanian journalists, representatives of civil society and officials to attend.

Minsk proposed Vilnius to create a joint body for the post-project analysis of the Astraviec NPP. It also offered to implement a joint project of the system of radiation monitoring of nuclear facilities located near the border.

According to Belarus Digest’s sources, Belarusian officials claim that Lithuania has been manipulating the Espoo Convention to slow down or block activities in Belarus, which it finds undesirable for economic or political reasons. They worry that Vilnius may seek to take advantage of the Western countries’ majority in the convention to pass the needed decisions.

Belarus’ Deputy Energy Minister, Mikhail Mikhadziuk affirmed in a recent interview to Lithuanian media that Lithuania has been “avoiding dialogue” by consistently ignoring Belarus’ attempts to establish proper channels of communication and resolve disagreements through debate. In 2010 – 2014, Belarusian government agencies sent ten written replies to their Lithuanian colleagues. Since 2011, the Belarusian government invited the Lithuanian authorities on ten occasions – once at the prime minister level – to hold expert consultations on the Astraviec NPP.

Belarus has been resisting the Lithuanian offer to establish an expert body to resolve the existing disagreements claiming that the two countries have yet not exhausted the possibilities offered by bilateral consultations.

The Lithuanian authorities maintain that their only concern over the Astraviec’s project remains the lack of safety and a negative environmental impact.

Indeed, the Astraviec NPP is being built by a Russian contractor, using Russian technology, equipment and a Russian loan. Persistent mistrust in Russian technology and safe implementation of the project by corruption-ridden contractors, which prevails in the post-Soviet space, fuels these doubts well. A recent incident at the construction site, which the Belarusian authorities chose initially to silence and even deny, only reinforced these fears.

Another reason for concern is the authoritarian nature of the Belarusian regime. The authorities failed to have a proper public debate in Belarus before taking the final decision on the project. Some fear that in absence of an independent regulator, government agencies and constructors may disregard potential shortcomings of the project to comply with Lukashenka’s instructions.

In their turn, the Belarusian authorities are convinced that the Lithuanian authorities pursue their economic and political interests under the guise of safety concerns.

Indeed, the Astraviec NPP makes the planned Visaginas NPP in Lithuania redundant. The Baltic countries have been discussing the idea of building a new NPP on the site of the closed Ignalina NPP since 2006 but few practical steps were made. Some experts see this project, which was put on hold for many years, as effectively dead.

Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaitė’s recent statement seems to confirm the theory of economic motives behind Lithuania’s opposition to Belarus’ project. On 22 February, she insisted that “the Astraviec NPP should not create any further obstacles neither for production of electric energy in the country nor for improving the efficiency of consumption or the synchronisation of the Baltic countries with power transmission lines of continental Europe.”

Domestic policy considerations are also playing an important role in the debate. The forthcoming October 2016 parliamentary elections make the politicians from all parties to play stronger hand in “defending national interests.” Even Rokas Masiulis, the Energy Minister, an opponent of the Astraviec project, called the activities of most ardent critics a “pre-election political manoeuvring”.

The Belarusian authorities are clearly concerned with the campaign launched by Lithuania against the NPP project, especially the calls for boycott of potential energy exports. However, even if this initiative enjoys wider support in the EU, it is unlikely to halt the construction of the NPP.

Belarus currently covers a significant part of its needs in electric energy by imports. The Astraviec NPP will serve to satisfy the domestic consumption. It will also allow to reduce imports of natural gas from Russia.

Some Lithuanian politician understand the importance of not overplaying the boycott card. Gediminas Kirkilas, the deputy speaker of the parliament and former prime minister of Lithuania, believes that Lithuania can now only mitigate the effects of Belarus’ decision. “Besides Astraviec, there are relations with Belarus, transit via Lithuania, the Klaipeda port”, he reminds.

Indeed, the Lithuanian authorities is hardly willing to jeopardise the numerous benefits of a wide web of trade ties between the two countries. For Lithuania, a face-saving compromising could involve much stricter environmental safety procedures and a mutually profitable arrangement for energy trade.

Igar Gubarevich is a senior analyst of the Ostrogorski Centre in Minsk. For a number of years he has been working in various diplomatic positions at the Belarusian Foreign Ministry.

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